The 2023 Cohort of the Elders Academy has been tasked to maintain their progress toward their goal of ministry in an open and accountable way. As part of this process, each cadet maintains a blog that details certain aspects of their growth. Each cadet is encouraged to be creative with their websites and be creative. This has led to very diverse websites, often rich with artistic content and other fun endeavors. However, each blog must have 4 main aspects:
A Character Journal (Weekly) This blog format journal details each cadet’s experience, victory, and difficulty in striving to live a life worthy of their calling. They are to specifically compare and contrast their development against the character of an elder as defined by the Pastoral Epistles.
Scripture Reading (Daily) Every cadet is required to post a scripture and their own thoughts about that scripture and how it applies to their life, community, and God’s overall will, as well as their hermeneutic insights. They are able to follow a prescribed Bible reading from ABF or their own personal studies.
Rules for Living (Weekly) As a part of Elder’s Academy, each cadet is given a growing list of rules by which they will be expected to live as ministers. They are to write about these rules as well as to detail the challenges they may see themselves or their generation facing in implementing them.
Essays and Papers (Assigned) Every Cadet has assignments given to them as part of their training. These may include papers about various subjects, such as Church History, Counseling, Systematic Theology, and others. These papers and essays will be archived here and available for public viewing.
It is our hope that these websites will provide the necessary accountability and peer review to provide these cadets with enough feedback and positive critique that they will be able to fine-tune themselves. Additionally, it is our hope that our congregants will use this opportunity to understand the men who wish to serve them. Please use what you find here to help them grow. Read their thoughts, give them feedback, and encourage their process.
-Nothing -Finances and physical health -Ignorance -Being different from everyone around me. That I have no true friends and I don’t fit in anywhere. I am not accepted by the queer community or the black community -Getting old -Buying a house -How to help communities -Work -Portland -The direction in my life -Expectations set for myself -Writing the best poetry I can -Just moved here from Utah -Laziness -Homelessness, drug addiction and the whole city breaking down -Wanting to get more cats but I can’t -Speeding tickets, new school and criticizing thoughts -Fighting fleshly temptations -Self-control -Anxiety towards school, relationships my mom and having arguments -I don’t know. Find my interest and going about doing it. In a broad sense sexual assault, domestic abuse, and traffic things. I would love to help victims and legal backings to people in struggle. -Scheduling and how to do school and work -Where to go next in life -Recent health problem -Covid and depression -Drugs, homelessness and money -My own thoughts and finding who I can trust _Alcohol -Drugs in the building where she lives, how to handle it. -School & future -Health problem of husband -Family Problems -Not enough time -My own morality
How is this subject been for you?
-I just feel anxious about getting in control -I have been trying to educate myself and read a lot of books, articles, opinions. Education and knowledge gives me self-worth and value -I want to make my own church that is queer not just queer-friendly. I am lonely because I don’t fit in. I have lived here in Portland for years now and still don’t have friends. -Hurts physically -How do I not feel guilt and shame from seeing people in need of help and the injustices around me? -I struggle with my coworkers sometimes -I also struggle with vaccinations and what people do with them. -Some days are better than others -Getting through the creative process. -This place is culturally more diverse -Stressful and frustrating -Seeing a counselor -Working on it -It affects me every day -If you don’t remember the past you are doomed to repeat the future. -Stressful and frustrating. Throw hands up, don’t know what to do. -Maintain perspective -Make the best of it -Grind it through -Avoidance
Anything else you want us to know?
-I’m loose and fun -I don’t believe in organized religion because it is man-made. too much judgment and focus should be unconditional true love. -Love each other and the culture is the biggest problem. We splinter due to politics and religion. -Organized religion has its perks and it works if it is not strict. You need to start to think for yourself. -Read Mahabharata and Ramayana and let me know what you think. -Base yourself on reflection -I’m still he
Archeio is Aletheia Bible Fellowship’s archive. It chronicles what was life was like through the years and takes on various forms. This has been everything from a book to home movies to a weekly talk show.
Memorandum, made by John H. Gilbert, Esq.,– Type-setter’s statement regarding the printing process and changes made to the Book of Mormon. Also includes Marin Harris’s comment of seeing the plates only with his “spiritual eye.”
The Kinderhook Plates– Excerpt from Answering Mormon Scholars Vol. 2 about Joseph Smith’s “translation” of another set of plates, only these are conclusively proven forgeries.
Kinderhook Plate photographs– photos of one rediscovered Kinderhook plate that Joseph Smith “translated.”
Kinderhook Facsimile– Reproduction of all six Kinderhook plates, front and back, found in History of the Church Vol. 5 pages 374-376. (The plate marked with a red box is the one in the above photographs.)
Updated: Thursday, June 7, 2018, 8:30 p.m. EDT: In addition to Russell Berger’s firing, the CrossFit location that he praised for canceling an event coinciding with Indy Pride has been shut down.
The Indianapolis Star reports that the downtown Indianapolis CrossFit Infiltrate, located on West Ninth Street, has a sign posted on its door that reads: “CrossFit Infiltrate has determined that it will no longer operate business at this location. We thank you for your patronage and support.”
Google lists the business as being permanently closed.
I know we are used to white men with white privilege getting away with their fuckery for the most part, but every now and again, one of them gets their comeuppance, and it is super sweet to behold. On those days we rejoice, because the universe gives us just a little bit for our long-suffering.
Meet Russell Berger, a Christian conservative from Alabama who up until Wednesday was the chief knowledge officer for CrossFit. Russell does not agree with the “gay lifestyle.” He believes that celebrating gay pride “is a sin” and that the “LGBTQ movement” lacks tolerance—and is “an existential threat to freedom of expression.” He feels so strongly about this that he took to Twitter to make these pronouncements in a series of now-deleted tweets.
“The tactics of some in the LGBTQ movement toward dissent is an existential threat to freedom of expression,” Berger wrote in one tweet. “The lack of tolerance for disagreement, which has been replaced with bullying Twitter mobs promising ‘consequences’, should be a concern regardless of your political stance.”
Obviously, said “Twitter mobs” must have come for Berger’s neck and his job, because he deleted that tweet and wrote another that said: “As someone who personally believes celebrating ‘pride’ is a sin, I’d like to personally encourage #CrossFitInfiltrate for standing by their convictions and refusing to host an @indypride workout. The intolerance of the LGBTQ ideology toward any alternative views is mind-blowing.”
Berger’s comments were in response to an announcement from CrossFit Infiltrate in Indianapolis that gym ownership had canceled an event coinciding with Indy Pride.
When others questioned Berger about his stance and comments, he doubled down on them. Literally.
“Allow me to double-down,” Berger wrote. “I believe @indypride is a celebration of sin, as do most Christians. I deleted this and reposted a different version to make sure it’s clear these are my personal beliefs, you know, since the Twitter mobs are hard at work trying to get me fired.”
While the Twitter mobs likely drew attention to the tweets and made CrossFit corporate aware of them, his employer could also have fired him because of the position those tweets put it in from a legal standpoint. Can you say “hostile work environment”? I knew you could.
Whatever the conversations were behind the scenes, Berger took to Twitter once again to inform everyone that he had been fired:
CrossFit also tweeted that he had been terminated:
“CrossFit is a diverse community in every way, and that’s what makes us strong. No matter who you are, how you’re built, what you believe, or who or how you love—we are proud of you,” the company wrote. “The statements made today by Russell Berger do not reflect the views of CrossFit Inc. For this reason, his employment with CrossFit has been terminated.”
As a Christian, I believe everyone, myself included, is guilty of breaking our moral obligations to God and deserves punishment. But by turning from our sin and trusting fully in Jesus Christ, we can be forgiven and reconciled to our creator. I love those who the LGBTQ community represents, and want them to know Christ, and reveling in sin is a heartbreaking obstacle to that.
I use the word ‘sin’ to describe pride events, and the sexual lifestyles associated with them, because that’s what God’s Word calls it, and I believe that God’s Word is true.
He then added:
[T]he same theology that leads me to this view leads me to the knowledge that all humans are created in God’s image, and are therefore inherently valuable and deserve to hear this offer of God’s grace. From the Christian perspective, the most hateful thing I could do for someone would be to lie to him or her about sin and our need for Christ, as unpopular as this may be in our culture today.
Berger told the Post that he regretted putting CrossFit in “a difficult position.”
“My comments where imprudent, and I drug my company in a difficult position, which I deeply regret,” he said. “I am particularly saddened for my employer and co-workers, who do incredible and life-changing work for millions of people, and are now forced to respond with their time and resources to this ordeal.”
Shorter Russell Berger: “I SAID WHAT I SAI—references available upon request.”
The Vatican on Thursday worked to set the record straight on whether Pope Francis denied the existence of hell in an interview with a well-known Italian journalist.
The controversy started when 93-year-old journalist Eugenio Scalfari, the founder of La Repubblica newspaper, publisheda report that he asked Francis where “bad souls” end up going, USA Today reported. Francis’ reply, according to the journalist, was that those who repent could be forgiven but those who do not, “disappear.”
The article, which ran on March 29, reported that Francis said “hell does not exist.”
“They are not punished, those who repent obtain the forgiveness of God and enter the rank of souls who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot therefore be forgiven disappear,” Francis is quoted as saying. “There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls.”
Scalfari, an atheist, does not usually use tape recorders during interviews, The USA Today report said. The Vatican said the story was the result of the reporter’s “reconstruction.”
“What is reported by the author in today’s article is the result of his reconstruction, in which the literal words pronounced by the Pope are not quoted,” the Vatican said. “No quotation of the aforementioned article must therefore be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father.”
The Catholic News Agency reported that Scalfari has “misrepresented” the pope in the past. The agency reported that Scalfari “aslo falsely reported that Pope Francis had made comments denying the existence of hell in 2015.”
According to Catholic Church teachings, there is a hell and it is for eternity.
“Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire.’ The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs,” according to CNA.
In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI said hell “really exists and it eternal, even if nobody talks about it much any more.”
In 1999 Pope John Paul II declared that Heaven was “neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but that fullness of communion with God which is the goal of human life.” Hell, by contrast, was “the ultimate consequence of sin itself … Rather than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy.”
Palestinian officials say at least 16 people have been killed by Israeli forces and hundreds more wounded during protests at the Gaza-Israeli border.
Thousands had marched to the border at the start of a six-week protest, dubbed the Great March of Return.
The Israeli military said soldiers had opened fire after rioting.
UN Security Council members meeting in New York have called for an investigation into the violence.
Palestinians have pitched five camps near the border for the protest. They are demanding that refugees be allowed to return to homes that are now in Israel.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged the UN Security Council to help provide “protection for our Palestinian people”.
“I… place full responsibility on the Israeli authorities for the loss of the martyrs who were killed today,” he said.
What happened at the border?
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said there were about 17,000 Palestinians in five locations near the border fence. It said it had “enforced a closed military zone” in the area surrounding Gaza.
Although most protesters stayed in the encampments, some groups of youths ignored organisers’ calls to stay away from the fence and headed closer to Israeli positions.
The IDF said troops were “firing towards the main instigators” to break up rioting that included petrol bombs and stones being thrown at the fence.
A spokesman said all those who were killed had been trying to breach or damage the border fence, the Jerusalem Post reports.
Israel said it had targeted sites of the Hamas militant group.
Israel deployed tanks and snipers. Witnesses said a drone had been used in at least one location to drop tear gas.
Will the protests lead to a military escalation?
By Rushdi Abu Alouf, BBC News, Gaza
The death toll from Friday’s rally is the largest since the last Israeli war on Gaza in the summer of 2014. Since then Gaza has seen a long period of calm but difficult economic conditions and the Israeli blockade may be the final chapter in the four-year truce between Hamas and Israel.
Despite the call for peaceful demonstrations, the confrontations involving angry Palestinian youths were not surprising. Young men have been demonstrating near the border with Israel on numerous occasions, but this time Israel’s response was exaggerated.
Tomorrow, the Palestinians will bury their dead and head back to the border with Israel to throw stones at the soldiers. The important question that remains is to what extent will peaceful demonstrations succeed in stopping an impending war, or will the protests lead to military escalation?
Hamas, the militant group that has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, does not recognise Israel’s right to exist but last year said it was ready to accept an interim Palestinian state limited to Gaza and the West Bank.
Addressing protesters on Friday, Hamas senior political leader Ismail Haniyeh said “we will not concede a single inch of the land of Palestine”.
He said: “There is no alternative to Palestine and no solution except to return.”
Palestinian health officials said at least 400 people had been wounded by live ammunition. It said one of those killed was a 16-year-old boy.
What have the Israelis said?
The Israeli military oversees a no-go zone along the Gaza border, citing security concerns, and has doubled its troop presence for the protest. It fears the protest could be an attempt at a mass breach of the border.
The Israeli foreign ministry said the protest was a “deliberate attempt to provoke a confrontation with Israel” and responsibility for any clashes lay “solely with Hamas and other participating Palestinian organisations”.
How has the UN Security Council reacted?
UN deputy political affairs chief Taye-Brook Zerihoun told the council the situation in Gaza “might deteriorate in the coming days” and called for civilians, particularly children, to not be targeted, Reuters news agency reports.
“Israel must uphold its responsibilities under international human rights and humanitarian law,” he said.
“Lethal force should only be used as a last resort with any resulting fatalities properly investigated by the authorities.”
What is the protest about?
Palestinians have erected five main camp areas along the Israel border for the protest, from Beit Hanoun in the north to Rafah near the Egyptian border.
The Great March of Return protests started on Friday as 30 March marks Land Day, which commemorates the killing of six protesters by Israeli security forces during demonstrations over land confiscation in 1976.
The protest is scheduled to end on 15 May, which Palestinians call Nakba (catastrophe) and which marks the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the conflict surrounding the creation of Israel in 1948.
Palestinians have long demanded their right to return but Israel says they should settle in a future Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank.
If you started typing “school shooting” into Google search Wednesday afternoon, you might have noticed that auto-fill took over and anticipated the next word: “today.” So even the bloodless algorithms within Google recognize that, when one tries to find information about a fresh school shooting, the search needs to be narrowed. Because people are still searching the school shooting from last week. And the one before that. And the one before that. We are six weeks into 2018, and so far there have been at least six shooting incidents on school grounds that have wounded at least one person, including the massacre Wednesday, in which 17 people were reported killed at a high school in Parkland, Fla.
When does an epidemic stop being an epidemic and become just a basic part of regular life? It’s been 19 years since the nation was horrified by the carnage at Columbine in suburban Denver. It’s been just over five years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Quick: What was the most recent mass shooting incident (at least four wounded) at a school before the one on Wednesday? Here’s the sick part: There have been so many school shootings that it takes a bit of work to answer what should be an easy question.
Already the folks who support gun control (which includes us) are fuming about the ready availability of firearms in our society. Already the pro-gun folks are pooh-poohing those who think guns are integral to shooting deaths. “Guns don’t kill people, people do,” they like to say. The accurate phrasing should be, “Guns don’t kill people, people with guns do.” At an astonishing rate, a depressing rate, a stomach-churning rate.
As a society we tend to become particularly shocked — at least for a few minutes — when someone shoots down children and young adults while they’re attending classes in what should be a positive, nurturing and safe environment. But even if we’re shocked, we tolerate it. Our outrage is more Pavlovian than visceral. We listen to the bleatings of the gun enthusiasts that, well, if those teachers had guns, then this wouldn’t have been as bad.
Been as bad. Think about that. If a pistol-strapping chemistry teacher had grabbed her .45 and unloaded on today’s gunman after he killed, what, one student? Three? Five? That would be good news?
We do not live in the Wild West. Our schools are not the O.K. Corral. Clint Eastwood isn’t in this movie. We are a violent, disjointed, gun-embracing culture. “But wait!” you might say. “Not me! I hate guns! We need more gun control!” As true as that might be, that’s not the belief of the body politic. Because if it was, we wouldn’t be sitting in front of our television sets wondering what the final death tally will be. Feeling our heartstrings tugged by images of bereft parents. Feeling an impotent rage.
This is what America is today: bloody. The Florida shooting too shall pass, as did Columbine, Sandy Hook, Santa Monica College and so on — all allowed to fade into the backdrop of American memory without a thing being done. This is us. Until we decide finally, forcefully, effectively, that it is not.
Russian President Vladimir Putin put an end to the confrontation between Israel and Iran in Syria and both sides accepted his decision. That’s the apparent conclusion to be reached from the chain of events this past weekend.
On Saturday afternoon, after the second wave of bombardments by the Israel Air Force against Syrian targets and Iranian installationsin Syria, senior Israeli officials were still taking a militant line and it seemed as if Jerusalem was considering further military action. Discussion of that ended not long after a phone call between Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The official announcement by the Russian Foreign Ministry objected to the violation of Syrian sovereignty by Israel and totally ignored the event that provoked the eruption – the infiltration of an Iranian drone into Israeli airspace. In the conversation with Netanyahu a few hours later, Putin asked him to avoid moves that could lead to “a new round of dangerous consequences for the region.”
The quiet after the Netanyahu-Putin call shows once again who’s the real boss in the Middle East. While the United States remains the region’s present absentee – searches are continuing for a coherent American foreign policy – Russia is dictating the way things are going. Moscow has invested too much effort and resources in saving Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime in recent years to allow Israel to foil its strategic project. One can assume messages of this nature were conveyed during the phone call with Netanyahu.
This doesn’t mean that Israel doesn’t have its own bargaining chips, just from its ability to send the Syrian arena into another dramatic spin, but it’s doubtful that Netanyahu is eager to confront the Russians. His confrontation with the Iranians is enough.
A rare vulnerability exposed during an otherwise successful day for the IAF that allowed the hit on the F-16 provided the Iranians and Syrians with their great propaganda achievement. The crew of the plane that was hit was left relatively exposed at high altitude in a manner that allowed the surprise hit by the missile. From Iran’s perspective, it was an impressive success in the first operation that the Revolutionary Guards conducted in this region by themselves, without relying on emissaries like Hezbollah and local militias. This success was immediately translated into an attempt to establish a new balance of power through declarations that it would no longer allow Israel to conduct air strikes in Syria as it pleases.
Over the weekend another two precedents were set: Iran launched a drone into Israeli territory, and Israel hit a manned Iranian target in Syrian territory. Israel thus crossed a certain psychological barrier, after months of public (and apparently excessive) threats to stop Iranian entrenchment in Syria.
But now a new test looms: If Israel won’t allow shipments of advanced weaponry to be brought to Hezbollah in Lebanon via Syria, what will it do the next time such a convoy sets out, after the enemy has demonstrated its attack capabilities and has threatened that the next Israeli attack will lead to a broad escalation? Even if we assume that next time, IAF planes will set out on their mission with more extensive protection, it’s taking a calculated risk.
The air strikes in the north were part of what the Israel Defense Forces refer to as the “war between the wars,” aimed primarily at undermining the efforts of organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah to empower themselves. When he presented the IDF’s annual intelligence assessment last month, Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot raised the possibility that the many IDF successes during these interim campaigns could push the enemy to try to respond in a way that could bring the region to the brink of war. That’s essentially what happened over the weekend.
Although things seem to be calming down, in retrospect it seems that we came a hair’s breadth from a slide into war. The security establishment’s assessment is that although this round of fighting has ended, another clash with Iran is only a matter of time.
On the right, one is starting to hear weird ideas about establishing a new regional order; let’s just finish teaching the Syrians a lesson and we’ll be able to go at the Iranians directly, even on their territory. But these are dangerous ideas that Israel would best avoid. In this tough neighborhood, Israel must display strength and determination, but dare not get drawn into illusions about unlimited military strength. It seems that the leadership in Jerusalem understands this.
The Russians are also concerned about the proximity of the Israeli bombings to sites where their soldiers and advisers are serving, including base T-4 near Palmyra, where the Iranian control post from which the anti-aircraft missile was fired was bombed.
Science fiction no more — in an article out today in Nature Biotechnology, scientists were able to show tiny autonomous bots have the potential to function as intelligent delivery vehicles to cure cancer in mice.
These DNA nanorobots do so by seeking out and injecting cancerous tumors with drugs that can cut off their blood supply, shriveling them up and killing them.
“Using tumor-bearing mouse models, we demonstrate that intravenously injected DNA nanorobots deliver thrombin specifically to tumor-associated blood vessels and induce intravascular thrombosis, resulting in tumor necrosis and inhibition of tumor growth,” the paper explains.
DNA nanorobots are a somewhat new concept for drug delivery. They work by getting programmed DNA to fold into itself like origami and then deploying it like a tiny machine, ready for action.
The scientists behind this study tested the delivery bots by injecting them into mice with human breast cancer tumors. Within 48 hours, the bots had successfully grabbed onto vascular cells at the tumor sites, causing blood clots in the tumor’s vessels and cutting off their blood supply, leading to their death.
Remarkably, the bots did not cause clotting in other parts of the body, just the cancerous cells they’d been programmed to target, according to the paper.
The scientists were also able to demonstrate the bots did not cause clotting in the healthy tissues of Bama miniature pigs, calming fears over what might happen in larger animals.
The goal, say the scientists behind the paper, is to eventually prove these bots can do the same thing in humans. Of course, more work will need to be done before human trials begin.
Regardless, this is a huge breakthrough in cancer research. The current methods of either using chemotherapy to destroy every cell just to get at the cancer cell are barbaric in comparison. Using targeted drugs is also not as exact as simply cutting off blood supply and killing the cancer on the spot. Should this new technique gain approval for use on humans in the near future it could have impressive affects on those afflicted with the disease.
GANGNEUNG, Korea – USA Hockey is working with the IOC to see whether goalies Nicole Hensley and Alex Rigsby really will have to remove the Statue of Liberty from their goalkeepers masks.
USA Hockey spokesman Dave Fischer said on Tuesday “discussions are ongoing” after the IOC said earlier the images would have to be removed.
Nicole Hensley helped the USA win gold at the last two World Championships, but Robb Stauber hasn’t committed to a starter yet for the Olympics.
The IOC views the image as a possible violation of its policy against political symbols. The rule from the IOC Guidelines Regarding Authorized Identifications: No item may feature the wording or lyrics from national anthems, motivational words, public/political messaging or slogans related to national identity.
Hensley’s Statue of Liberty image is on the left side of her mask, and Rigsby’s is on her chin. Neither goalie played in USA’s opening 3-1 win against Finland. Maddie Rooney was the starter.
Fischer said it the situation should be resolved before USA’s Tuesday game against Russia (7:10 a.m., ET, NBC Sports Network.)
The U.S. government is building the world’s largest debtors’ prison: the United States. Beginning this month, the Internal Revenue Service will begin denying passports to some American citizens with unpaid taxes and, in some cases, revoking the passports of Americans with tax delinquencies. The government will in effect place those with unpaid taxes under arrest, effectively denying them their right to travel. To be clear: We are not talking about Americans who have been convicted of tax evasion or tax fraud, or who are awaiting a criminal trial on charges related to tax matters. These Americans have not been charged with a crime, must less convicted of one. They simply have unpaid taxes amounting to $50,000 or more. More precisely: They have an unpaid IRS liability amounting to $50,000 or more. The IRS’s aggressive schedule of interest and penalties for unpaid taxes ensures that a relatively small amount of unpaid taxes can turn into a $50,000-plus liability with remarkable speed. The IRS has remarkable investigative tools and collections procedures at its disposal. Say what you will about the Patriot Act, it does not oblige Americans to file detailed paperwork annually with the Department of Homeland Security detailing their personal affairs, business arrangements, housing situation, health-insurance coverage, etc. The IRS has that power, and then some: It can seize assets, garnish wages, put liens on property, and more. Still, there are occasions when it finds itself unable to collect a debt. Sometimes, that is because it is dealing with a crafty person who manages to hide his income and property from the government. More often, that is because it is dealing with a person who simply cannot pay.
What’s worse is that there is no appeal, no procedural remedy in the law, no redress for those who have been wrongly targeted — and we know the IRS has a history of wrongly targeting Americans its agents perceive as political enemies. The sole remedy available to Americans who wrongfully lose their passports to the IRS — or who fail to have them reinstated after making good on their taxes — is to file a civil action against the agency under 26 USC 7345. Suing the IRS is an expensive and difficult proposition, especially for people who are likely already to be in a difficult financial situation. When it comes to relations between citizen and state, it’s always a matter of “Show, don’t tell.” Here is a data point for you: Under federal sentencing guidelines, the recommended sentence for involuntary manslaughter is 10 months to 16 months. The average sentence for tax evasion? Seventeen months. The average sentence in a tax case is longer than the average sentence for a car thief (twelve months), a forger (twelve months), or a felon convicted in a drug case (14 months). But that’s tax fraud. We aren’t even talking about that. We’re just talking about Americans with unpaid back taxes. The right to travel is — like the right to free speech, the right to be free from unlawful search and seizure, and the right to petition the government for redress of grievance — a basic civil right. Americans as free people have a God-given right to come and go as they please, irrespective of the preferences of any pissant bureaucrat in Washington. Yes, we curtail people’s rights in certain circumstances — when they have been charged with a crime and convicted after due process. Tax fraud is a crime; having unpaid taxes is not. The U.S. government needs a periodic reminder that it was created by the states and by the people, not the other way around, and that it exists at the sufferance of the people — not the other way around. Suspending passports in the course of a civil dispute — a civil dispute that may well be in litigation or soon to be in litigation — is banana-republic, totalitarian stuff.
Congress did this, and Congress can undo this — and Congress should undo this. Yes, people should pay their taxes. Most people do. But there are limits to what the government may permissibly do to citizens in any situation, and much narrower limits to what the government may permissibly to do citizens who have neither been charged with nor convicted of any crime in the matter — which is not, after all, a criminal matter in the first place. People should pay their taxes, and the people at the IRS should do their jobs honestly and ethically. Most of them do. But not all of them. Lois Lerner, the IRS boss who illegally targeted conservative groups for harassment in the runup to the 2012 presidential election, is happily enjoying retired life in some Washington suburb while collecting a fat federal pension. She didn’t lose her passport. Former IRS commissioner John Koskinen lied to Congress about the situation and oversaw the destruction of evidence. He still has a passport. The crimes — actual crimes — of the powerful and the connected go unpunished, while those who for whatever reason have an unmet obligation to the IRS are treated like East Germans locked behind the Checkpoint Charlie of the federal bureaucracy. If you want to know why faith in our institutions is at such a low point, meditate on that. In the meantime, Congress should repeal the statute enabling the IRS to effectively place Americans under house arrest over unpaid bills. And if Congress fails to act, its members should be made to pay a price. My senators are Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, and my representative is Pete Sessions. What say you, gentlemen?
When you think of Valentine’s Day you probably think of flowers, chocolates, and notes sealed with a kiss—not whipping women with dead animals or martyrdom. But it turns out this sweet and loving commercial holiday has its roots in pagan rituals and good old-fashioned Christian rebranding. Oh, and selling you cards.
Historians aren’t 100% sure about the origins of Valentine’s Day, but many believe it all started as the pre-Roman empire ritual known as Lupercalia, which sounded like a real hoot. Every February 13 – 15, goats and dogs were sacrificed at an altar by the Luperci (or “brothers of the wolf”) as an offering. After that, folks were anointed in the blood of the animals, wiped clean with some wool soaked in milk (as one does), and feasted until they were full and drunk. Then came the best part: the Luperci took the skins of the sacrificial animals and ran around naked, smacking people with them. Here’s how Plutarch describes the festivities:
…many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy.
Then, ladies and gentleman—drum roll please—came the Catholic Church. They didn’t care much for the blood, and the nakedness, and the sacrificing of the things. By the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I decided to create a new holiday right on top of the old pagan one to, well, make people forget about it. He said, and I quote, “Stop smackin’ bitches with dead animals,” and dubbed it St. Valentine’s day in honor of two Christian martyrs named Valentine—Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni—who both happened to be executed by the Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus II on February 14 in two different years during the 3rd century A.D. What are the odds? Actually, pretty good, since the Romans were basically executing everybody who was Christian during that time. Anyway, at that point, celebrating Lupercalia was all but outlawed.
But did that stop people from getting their fertility on this time of year? No way! The Normans (early northern French folks who descended from the Norse) celebrated Galatin’s Day this time of year instead of St. Valentine’s Day. “Galatin” meant “a lover” or “a gallant,” so they did that, and the name is even believed to have been confused with the name “Valentine” at some point. Eventually, during the Middle Ages, the day gradually became associated with romantic love in Europe. In the 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote in hisParlement of Foules:
“For this was on seynt Volantynys day, Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make”
For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.
The poem was for the first anniversary of King Richard II’s engagement to Anne of Bohemia, and it’s largely considered the first written instance where Valentine’s Day is associated with romantic love and not fertility or lusty pursuits. Also, it was believed in England and France that the beginning of birds’ mating season was February 14, hence the line in Chaucer’s poem. They weren’t far off. By the time the Julian calendar became the Gregorian calendar, February 14 actually became the 23, which is a time when some birds start mating and nesting in England. Either way, it added to the notion that Valentine’s Day was for romance. By 1415, people were writing handmade valentines to one another, like the famous poem by Charles, the Duke of Orleans, “A Farewell to Love,” that was sent to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. And by Shakespeare’s time—“To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day, all in the morning betime, and I a maid at your window, to be your Valentine”—the romantic version of Valentine’s Day that we all know had become popular throughout almost all of Europe.
Around the start of the industrial revolution in the U.S., Valentine’s Day went from being a small-time, historical day of romance to full-blown money tree. The new age of machinery ushered in mass-produced, factory-made cards one could easily purchase and pass off to those they cared for on special occasions. In 1913, Hallmark Cards offered pre-made valentines, and in 1916 started mass producing them. The day of romance was born anew as a commercial holiday. Since then, the day is not only about buying cheesy cards to pass around your third grade class, but it’s also about buying flowers, candy, jewelry, and trying unsuccessfully to get reservations at halfway-decent restaurants. Love is still in the air, but there’s no doubt the holiday is more about “stuff” nowadays than romance. It almost makes you miss the carcass-slapping days of old.
Most adults are probably baffled by a viral Internet meme that has inspired dozens of young people to ingest the colorful capsules filled with laundry detergent for internet laughs. Indeed, both the Tide brand and health professionals have urged the public not to eat the pods, as even a small amount of the detergent can cause diarrhea, vomiting, breathing issues and, at worst, death.
Yet if you were perplexed, even baffled, by the staying power of internet jokes about absurd, brand-inspired forms of suicide, there’s a simple explanation. Millennials — who were born and raised on the internet and produce and consume much of their culture there — have had our whole lives characterized by economic anxiety. We have a dismal economic outlook, the worst of any generation born since the Great Depression. And our own culture-making — this kind of nihilistic, cynical humor epitomized in memes like eating Tide Pods — is merely a reflection of our worldview. It is cathartic in a sense. And it’s not the first time in history a generation has behaved this way in response to the world they were brought up in.
Generational jokes about death via consumer goods aren’t new. Before the Tide Pod meme there was the “drinking bleach” meme, a joke about committing suicide by (obviously) drinking bleach. Social media subcultures like Weird Facebook and Black Twitter share images of bleach in response to undesirable content or to self-deprecate about their mental health. Building on the Tide Pod meme, the Forbidden Snacks meme includes ingesting other household objects that resemble edible treats such as Dungeons and Dragons dice, bath bombs and Himalayan Salt Lamps, to name a few.
What makes millennial humor so nihilistic and absurdist? I think the best way to understand memes like these is to analogize them to a century-old movement: Dadaism. The Dada movement evolved in reaction to World War I and disillusionment over war, violence, capitalism and nationalism. The original Dadaists were European radical leftists who traded the reason, rationale and aestheticism of the warmongering status quo for absurdity, irrationality and anti-capitalism. They rejected conventional notions of art, in turn creating anti-art with no clear purpose that mirrored the senselessness of war.
Later, in the Cold War era, Neo-Dada arose in response to the consumer culture and mass media of the 1950s. See any parallels today?
“The Greatest Generation” suffered through the Great Depression and World War II. Having lived through scarcity and war, they did not want their children to experience the same hardships. As a result, “Baby Boomers” were raised in a world of supposed abundance and to believe they should never live without. Boomers lived during a time of significant prosperity with widespread access to resources, education and a thriving job market. Just as the dismal worldview of millennial internet memes sprang from the fount of economic anxiety, the utopianism of the 1960s counterculture sprang from their far sunnier-seeming world.
By the late 1990s, boomers had gained the greatest social, political and economic influence worldwide, and with this, a multitude of long-percolating crises reached their boiling points – climate change, national debt, and a shrinking middle class, to name a few.
Freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy sent Vice President Mike Pence a not-so-subtle message from the Opening Ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
Pence attended the ceremony as the ceremonial head of the United States delegation. Kenworthy, who is gay, told the vice president to “eat your heart out” in the caption of a picture on Instagram with figure skater Adam Rippon.
“The Opening Ceremony is a wrap and the 2018 Winter Olympic Gaymes are officially under way!” Kenworthy wrote. “I feel incredibly honored to be here in Korea competing for the US and I’m so proud to be representing the LGBTQ community alongside this amazing guy! Eat your heart out, Pence.”
Kenworthy also tweeted pictures with Rippon, but left out the part including the vice president.
Rippon, who is also gay, made a comment against Pence at qualifying for the Olympics because of a campaign statement made by Pence’s congressional campaign in 2000 that advocated against federal funding being given to “organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus.” Instead, Pence’s campaign said “resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
Many, including Rippon, feel that Pence’s campaign was making a reference to the ridiculous practice of homosexual conversion therapy.
Following Rippon’s comments at qualifying, USA Today reported that Pence’s staff tried to set up a meeting with Rippon, which the figure skater refused. Pence’s team publicly has said they did not reach out to the skater in the hopes of a meeting. The skater told USAT that he wouldn’t rule out meeting with Pence … after the Olympics.
“If I had the chance to meet him afterwards, after I’m finished competing, there might be a possibility to have an open conversation,” Rippon said in the interview last month. “He seems more mild-mannered than Donald Trump. … But I don’t think the current administration represents the values that I was taught growing up. Mike Pence doesn’t stand for anything that I really believe in.”
Pence was the governor of Indiana when the state passed the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” The widely-criticized law claimed to protect religious freedom in the state, but drew immediate scorn for the ability for people to discriminate under the law. The law was so heavily protested that an amendment was passed not long after that protected LGBT people against discrimination.
The new e-skin. Photo by Jianliang Xiao / University of Colorado Boulder
In a quest to make electronic devices more environmentally friendly, researchers have created an electronic skin that can be completely recycled. The e-skin can also heal itself if it’s torn apart.
The device, described today in the journal Science Advances, is basically a thin film equipped with sensors that can measure pressure, temperature, humidity, and air flow. The film is made of three commercially available compounds mixed together in a matrix and laced with silver nanoparticles: when the e-skin is cut in two, adding the three compounds to the “wound” allows the e-skin to heal itself by recreating chemical bonds between the two sides. That way, the matrix is restored and the e-skin is as good as new. If the e-skin is broken beyond repair, it can just be soaked in a solution that “liquefies” it so that the materials can be reused to make new e-skin. One day, this electronic skin could be used in prosthetics, robots, or smart textiles.
“This particular device … won’t produce any waste,” says study co-author Jianliang Xiao, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at University of Colorado Boulder. “We want to make electronics to be environmentally friendly.”
So if the e-skin is severely damaged, or you’re just done with it, it can be recycled using a “recycling solution.” This solution dissolves the matrix into small molecules, allowing the silver nanoparticle to sink to the bottom. All materials can then be reused to create another patch of functioning e-skin. The whole recycling takes about 30 minutes at 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) or 10 hours at room temperature. The healing happens even faster: within a half hour at room temperature, or within a few minutes at 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius), according to Xiao.
The e-skin isn’t perfect. It’s soft, but not as stretchy as human skin. Xiao says he and his colleagues are also working to make the device more scalable, so that it’ll be easier to manufacture and embed in prosthetics or robots. But it’s the fact that the e-skin can be recycled that gets Xiao excited.
“We are facing pollution issues every day,” he says. “It’s important to preserve our environment and make sure that nature can be very safe for ourselves and for our kids.”
Jerry Nadeau, 72, (left) and his husband, John Banvard, 100, stand outside their home in Chula Vista, Calif.
Cam Buker for StoryCorps
When John Banvard, 100, met Gerard “Jerry” Nadeau, 72, in 1993, neither of them had been openly gay.
“When we met, we were sort of in the closet, and I’d never had a real relationship. Now, we’ve been together almost 25 years,” Jerry tells John during a StoryCorps interview.
“What would it have been like if you didn’t meet me?” Jerry asks John.
“I would have continued being lonely,” John says. “I’d been absolutely lost.”
Both are veterans, having served in World War II (John) and Vietnam (Jerry), and when they moved into the veterans home together in Chula Vista, Calif., in 2010, Jerry says people there wondered what their relationship was.
“Well, when we got married, they knew what our relationship was,” Jerry says, laughing.
The couple married in 2013, and John says he was surprised by the warm reception they received. “I was expecting we’d be ridiculed, and there was very little of that,” he says.
“We’d gotten married at the veterans home, and we said, ‘If you came to see the bride, you’re out of luck.’ Do you remember that?” Jerry asks John.
“Yes, of course,” John says. The two indulge in the memory of a casual wedding — a frank display, if you will, of their unabashed love — featuring hot dogs as a main course, which, John says, “is hardly wedding food.”
Later, their achievement was affirmed by a simple introduction. “I was with you in the cafeteria, and somebody came up with their family, and they said, ‘This is Gerard Nadeau, and this is his husband, John,’ ” Jerry recounts. “I’d never heard that before.”
“Yes, that was very nice,” John says.
“You’ve made my life complete,” Jerry tells John.
“I could say the same to you,” John replied. “I think we’re probably as happy together as any two people you’re likely to meet.”
Produced for Morning Edition by Liyna Anwar.
StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.
All images courtesy of Brad Abrahams. Detail from First Time by David Huggins (left); Film still of Huggins from Love and Saucers (right)
Losing your virginity is supposed to be memorable. Most people look back on the act with affection and, probably, a little embarrassment. But David Huggins says the first time he had sex was more—er, out of this world—than most.
“When I was 17, I lost my virginity to a female extraterrestrial,” the 74-year-old says in a documentary about him called Love and Saucers. “That’s all I can say about it.”
The coitus in question allegedly went down in 1961, when Huggins was a teenager living on his parents’ farm in rural Georgia. It wasn’t the first time extraterrestrials had appeared to him; he’d been seeing strange creatures since he was eight. But on this day, as he was walking through woods near his house, an alien woman appeared and seduced him. “I thought, if anything, I’d be losing it in the backseat of a Ford—something like that. But it didn’t work out that way,” he says in the film.
Film still from Love and Saucers, picturing Huggins holding his painting First Time
According to Huggins, these visits from extraterrestrials, and his sexual relationship with them, continued into adulthood. When I interviewed him for this story, Huggins told me his last encounter with Crescent, his name for the woman in the woods, was six months ago. “I was sitting down in a chair, and the woman, Crescent, was behind me, and she put her arms around me,” he said. “And that’s about it. I don’t know anything else outside of that.”
Huggins is unnervingly matter-of-fact when he talks about his encounters. It sets him apart from what most of us expect from truthers and UFO enthusiasts. He’s not in it for the notoriety and doesn’t care if anyone believes him. When Huggins talks about fathering hundreds of alien babies—and yes, that’s another facet of his encounters—he sounds about as even-keeled as a farmer explaining crop rotations.
It’s one of the things that drew filmmaker Brad Abrahams to track Huggins down in Hoboken, New Jersey, where he lives now. Abrahams heard Huggins’s story on a podcast about UFOs and the paranormal. “In a sea of outlandish claims, there was one that rose to the surface,” he said. “And that was David’s story.”
Huggins was born in rural Georgia in 1944. In Love and Saucers, he talks about hunting for arrowheads in nearby fields for fun and not liking the evangelical Baptist church his grandparents took him to sometimes. When strange beings that no one else could see started appearing to him around the farm, he thought he was losing his mind.
“I am sitting under a tree, and I hear this voice say, ‘David, behind you.’ And I turned around and there is this little hairy guy with large glowing eyes coming straight towards me. I thought it was the bogeyman. I didn’t know what to think of it,” he says in the film. Another day, an “insect-like being” that reminded Huggins of a praying mantis appeared. “I was very terrified,” he says. “It was like, ‘What in the world am I looking at?’ And for an eight-year-old, you don’t know what to think.”
Once the shock wore off, Huggins says his encounters were weird, but not all that threatening. When he left Georgia in the mid 60s for art school in New York City, the beings followed. Nocturnal visits from Crescent, the ET who deflowered him, became routine. “My relationship with Crescent was warm and friendly. A little strange. What do I mean, a little. Very strange. She was my girlfriend, really,” Huggins says in the film. “A very unconventional relationship,” he adds.
Floating Up, David Huggins (left); Huggins in his studio with a painting of an alien woman he says he had sex with (right)
One of the first paintings Huggins ever made was of him and Crescent, having sex. “[The painting’s] not really all that good. She was on top of me, I reach my climax, then she and the insect being leave,” he says. Similar paintings fill his apartment. They’re surreal and a little childlike, dominated by deep blues and greens.
This is another thing that sets Huggins apart from most people with alien abduction stories: He paints his encounters. It started in 1987, when Huggins started remembering details from early visits. He says the deluge was triggered by Budd Hopkins’s book Intruders: The Incredible Visitations at Copley Woods.
“It was like a compulsion. I was being led to the book,” he says in the film. “There is this chapter ‘Other Women, Other Men,’ and I start reading it. And I go, Oh my God, this is the woman I never told anyone about. As I was reading it, memory upon memory came flooding back. It was image upon image. They wouldn’t stop. I think what bothered me the most is I didn’t know what to do with it. I was so scared.”
“It seemed like he was almost going crazy… from not being able to process these experiences that happened to him. What were they? Why him? It really sounded like he was losing his grip on his life and reality,” Abrahams told me. “And then, apparently, he got this message from [the beings] that he should paint the experiences, and as soon as he started doing that, it changed him.
“He said it was a release. He was able to sleep for the first time in weeks. And since then, he has painted every single detail of every encounter. A hundred-something paintings. It is art therapy. I don’t know if that’s how David would describe it, but that was a big part of what I wanted to show, too. Once he found a way to show the rest of the world, or even just himself, [what happened] visually through art, he was able to process, make sense of, and come to peace with whatever it was that happened to him,” Abrahams said.
David Huggins works on a painting (left); Caught, David Huggins, oil on canvas, 1989 (right)
What makes Love and Saucers a very good documentary about a man who paints himself having sex with aliens is that Abrahams lays out the details of Huggins’s story and lets viewers come to their own conclusions. At its core, Love and Saucers is a film about belief. The first half is Huggins telling his own story, but the second half is interviews with his friends and neighbors. Some of them weren’t aware of Huggins’s encounters beforehand. But they all believe him.
Then there is Jeffrey Kripal, a professor of philosophy and religious thought at Rice University in Texas. He spent the early part of his career studying erotic mysticism, which led him to study alien abduction literature. “The whole history of religions is essentially about weird beings coming from the sky and doing strange things to human beings, and historically, those events or encounters have been framed as angels or demons or gods or goddesses or what have you. But in the modern, sort of secular, world we live in, they get framed as science fiction,” he says in Love and Saucers.
Kripal believes Huggins. He says the mix of terror and euphoria Huggins describes lines up with age-old descriptions of humans encountering the sacred. Plus, details of Huggins’s abductions mirror those described by other people Kripal has interviewed who believe they’ve had supernatural experiences. “I’m completely convinced they’re not lying; they’re being very sincere. But again, what it is is an entirely different question, and that’s where I think we need a lot more humility,” he says.
Her Eyes, David Huggins
Whether or not you think Huggins has really been having sex with aliens for the past 50 years, what’s apparent is that Huggins himself believes it. “Consider that this man isn’t lying and that he’s communicating something that he’s experienced, but it doesn’t have to be taken literally. Someone can not be crazy but still claim to have these completely unexplainable experiences,” Abrahams said.
What I think is more fascinating than whether or not “the truth is out there” is what stories like Huggins’s say about the impulse to explain away what we do not understand, and our limited ability to interpret all the sensations, experiences, and randomly firing neurons that come with being human.
When I asked Huggins why he thinks the beings appear to him, he said, “I have a feeling that tens of millions of people, perhaps hundreds of millions, have had [similar] experiences. Mainly as children. That’s all I can really say, but I think as children we are so open to things, that these beings can appear to us. I know I never closed up on it, because it has continued through my whole life.”
Love and Saucers is available to watch on a number of platforms here.
(CNN)When politicians manipulate history for political purposes, we should worry. When they write laws, ordering prison terms for those who counter their version of history, we should challenge them.
Polish President Andrzej Duda just announced he will sign a controversial bill making it illegal to accuse Poland of complicity in the Holocaust. The developments in Poland come at the intersection of two troubling trends taking place in many countries — the upsurge in Holocaust denialism and the political manipulation of the truth for political purposes.
Poland’s bill rises from a legitimate concern. After behaving in largely heroic ways during World War II, Poles are tired of hearing others blame them for the horrors of the Holocaust, some of whose worst chapters took place on their soil. The law aims to defend the “good name of Poland,” but instead it criminalizes talk about historical truths.
The Nazis built Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka and other death camps there, murdering 3 million Polish Jews. The Poles, whose country suffered horrifically under Nazi occupation, have bristled when hearing people refer to “Polish death camps.” Soon using words such as these could land you in jail for three years.
The law will inevitably turn the world’s attentions to the fact that even though Poland resisted and fought the Nazis and many Poles risked their lives to help Jews, there were, indeed, Poles who actively helped the Nazis. That is a historical fact, recounted by people who survived the massacres.
Instead of drawing attention to the heroism of the Polish nation, the law will highlight the misdeeds of these individuals. So why would the government make such a foolish, counterproductive move? Because it’s good politics at home.
Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party, a right-wing nationalist party that has steadily eroded democracy in Poland and is turning it into a magnet for xenophobes, has found an issue that resonates across the nation, and is exploiting it to inflame “patriotic” feeling. The more the world complains, the more Poland’s ruling party can boast of defending the nation against the world.
The United States has warned Poland of “repercussions” — or costs to its international relationships — if it does not reconsider the legislation, and its alliance with Israel — until now a close friend of Poland’s — is in crisis.
Israel’s centrist opposition leader, Yair Lapid, tweeted his condemnation of the proposed law, writing that “hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered without ever meeting a German soldier.” When the Polish Embassy in Israel responded that the law was to “protect truth against such slander,” Lapid fired back, “I am a son of a Holocaust survivor. My grandmother was murdered in Poland by Germans and Poles. I don’t need Holocaust education from you.” The Israeli parliament is considering changing the law banning Holocaust denial to include “denying or minimizing the involvement of the Nazi helpers and collaborators.”
Poland’s efforts to rewrite history are a new twist on Holocaust denial, which is a perverse maneuver that always has political and ideological objectives but usually hides under the deceptive claims of pursuing historical accuracy.
Denial goes hand in hand with other forms of ideological extremism. Not surprisingly, Holocaust deniers don’t hate only Jews; they are also prejudiced against other minorities.
In the United States, a Holocaust denier and brazen anti-Semite is on track to become the Republican nominee for Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District. Arthur Jones, a retired insurance salesman, has run for the seat seven times. This time no other Republican is on the ballot. His website describes the “Holocaust racket” as a Jewish scam, uses the Confederate flag as “a symbol of White Pride and White resistance,” and his blog blames leftists for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, where an admitted neo-Nazi has been charged with murder in the death of Heather Heyer, who was protesting against white supremacists.
Jones’ Holocaust denials are built, like all others, on falsehoods. The Holocaust is one of the most thoroughly documented events in history — with mountains of data, testimony, and artifacts demonstrating beyond question that the Nazis set out to annihilate Europe’s Jews, and nearly succeeded, killing 6 million of them, along with tens of thousands of homosexuals, hundreds of thousands of Roma (Gypsies), disabled people and others.
And yet deniers persist.
When Trump became President, many worried about how much he would empower the extreme right. After all, his top aide, Steve Bannon, had boasted of making his website, Breitbart, a platform for the so-called alt-right. Those fears appeared to be borne out after the inauguration, when the White House issued a statement marking Holocaust Remembrance Day that did not even mention Jews or anti-Semitism, instead referring to “innocent people.”
Since then, Trump has made something of a course correction. Bannon is out, and this year’s statement was what you would expect from a normal presidency.
And yet the disturbing memories of Trump’s reluctance to condemn neo-Nazis and white supremacists at Charlottesville cannot be erased.
His rhetoric may have even empowered true bigots to act on their worst impulses. Anti-Semitic incidents surged in the first year of the Trump presidency. In the seven weeks after Charlottesville alone, the Anti-Defamation League counted more than 200 incidents.
More than 70 years after the end of World War II, the Holocaust remains a testing strip, providing warning signs that should not be ignored, whether in an Eastern European country or a congressional district in Illinois.
A cutting-edge scientific analysis shows that a Briton from 10,000 years ago had dark brown skin and blue eyes.
Researchers from London’s Natural History Museum extracted DNA from Cheddar Man, Britain’s oldest complete skeleton, which was discovered in 1903.
University College London researchers then used the subsequent genome analysis for a facial reconstruction.
It underlines the fact that the lighter skin characteristic of modern Europeans is a relatively recent phenomenon.
No prehistoric Briton of this age had previously had their genome analysed.
As such, the analysis provides valuable new insights into the first people to resettle Britain after the last Ice Age.
The analysis of Cheddar Man’s genome – the “blueprint” for a human, contained in the nuclei of our cells – will be published in a journal, and will also feature in the upcoming Channel 4 documentary The First Brit, Secrets Of The 10,000-year-old Man.
Cheddar Man’s remains had been unearthed 115 years ago in Gough’s Cave, located in Somerset’s Cheddar Gorge. Subsequent examination has shown that the man was short by today’s standards – about 5ft 5in – and probably died in his early 20s.
Prof Chris Stringer, the museum’s research leader in human origins, said: “I’ve been studying the skeleton of Cheddar Man for about 40 years
“So to come face-to-face with what this guy could have looked like – and that striking combination of the hair, the face, the eye colour and that dark skin: something a few years ago we couldn’t have imagined and yet that’s what the scientific data show.”
Fractures on the surface of the skull suggest he may even have met his demise in a violent manner. It’s not known how he came to lie in the cave, but it’s possible he was placed there by others in his tribe.
The Natural History Museum researchers extracted the DNA from part of the skull near the ear known as the petrous. At first, project scientists Prof Ian Barnes and Dr Selina Brace weren’t sure if they’d get any DNA at all from the remains.
But they were in luck: not only was DNA preserved, but Cheddar Man has since yielded the highest coverage (a measure of the sequencing accuracy) for a genome from this period of European prehistory – known as the Mesolithic, or Middle Stone Age.
They teamed up with researchers at University College London (UCL) to analyse the results, including gene variants associated with hair, eye and skin colour.
Extra mature Cheddar
They found the Stone Age Briton had dark hair – with a small probability that it was curlier than average – blue eyes and skin that was probably dark brown or black in tone.
This combination might appear striking to us today, but it was a common appearance in western Europe during this period.
Steven Clarke, director of the Channel Four documentary, said: “I think we all know we live in times where we are unusually preoccupied with skin pigmentation.”
Prof Mark Thomas, a geneticist from UCL, said: “It becomes a part of our understanding, I think that would be a much, much better thing. I think it would be good if people lodge it in their heads, and it becomes a little part of their knowledge.”
Unsurprisingly, the findings have generated lots of interest on social media.
Cheddar Man’s genome reveals he was closely related to other Mesolithic individuals – so-called Western Hunter-Gatherers – who have been analysed from Spain, Luxembourg and Hungary.
Dutch artists Alfons and Adrie Kennis, specialists in palaeontological model-making, took the genetic findings and combined them with physical measurements from scans of the skull. The result was a strikingly lifelike reconstruction of a face from our distant past.
Pale skin probably arrived in Britain with a migration of people from the Middle East around 6,000 years ago. This population had pale skin and brown eyes and absorbed populations like the ones Cheddar Man belonged to.
No-one’s entirely sure why pale skin evolved in these farmers, but their cereal-based diet was probably deficient in Vitamin D. This would have required agriculturalists to absorb this essential nutrient from sunlight through their skin.
“There may be other factors that are causing lower skin pigmentation over time in the last 10,000 years. But that’s the big explanation that most scientists turn to,” said Prof Thomas.
Boom and bust
The genomic results also suggest Cheddar Man could not drink milk as an adult. This ability only spread much later, after the onset of the Bronze Age.
Present-day Europeans owe on average 10% of their ancestry to Mesolithic hunters like Cheddar Man.
Britain has been something of a boom-and-bust story for humans over the last million-or-so years. Modern humans were here as early as 40,000 years ago, but a period of extreme cold known as the Last Glacial Maximum drove them out some 10,000 years later.
There’s evidence from Gough’s Cave that hunter-gatherers ventured back around 15,000 years ago, establishing a temporary presence when the climate briefly improved. However, they were soon sent packing by another cold snap. Cut marks on the bones suggest these people cannibalised their dead – perhaps as part of ritual practices.
Britain was once again settled 11,000 years ago; and has been inhabited ever since. Cheddar Man was part of this wave of migrants, who walked across a landmass called Doggerland that, in those days, connected Britain to mainland Europe. This makes him the oldest known Briton with a direct connection to people living here today.
This is not the first attempt to analyse DNA from the Cheddar Man. In the late 1990s, Oxford University geneticist Brian Sykes sequenced mitochondrial DNA from one of Cheddar Man’s molars.
Mitochondrial DNA comes from the biological “batteries” within our cells and is passed down exclusively from a mother to her children.
Prof Sykes compared the ancient genetic information with DNA from 20 living residents of Cheddar village and found two matches – including history teacher Adrian Targett, who became closely connected with the discovery. The result is consistent with the approximately 10% of Europeans who share the same mitochondrial DNA type.
(CNN)More teenagers are identifying themselves with nontraditional gender labels such as transgender or gender-fluid, according to a new study.
The research, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, found that almost 3% of Minnesota teens did not identify with traditional gender labels such as “boy” or “girl.” That number is higher than researchers expected. A UCLA study from a year ago estimated that 0.7% of teens identified as transgender.
Lead researcher Nic Rider of the University of Minnesota said the main purpose of the new study was to examine health differences between gender-nonconforming teens and teens who are cisgender, a person whose gender identity aligns with the sex assigned to them at birth.
The study found that transgender and gender-nonconforming (TGNC) youth reported “reported significantly poorer health” — including mental health — than cisgender teenagers. TGNC teens also were less likely to get preventive health checkups and more likely to visit their school nurse, the study found.
But more surprising may have been the rising percentage of teens who say they don’t fit traditional gender norms.
The study supports prior research suggesting “that previous estimates of the size of the TGNC population have been underestimated by orders of magnitude,” wrote Daniel Shumer, a specialist in transgender medicine at the University of Michigan, in an accompanying opinion article.
The study supports prior research suggesting “that previous estimates of the size of the TGNC population have been underestimated by orders of magnitude,” wrote Daniel Shumer, a specialist in transgender medicine at the University of Michigan, in an accompanying opinion article.
That’s a big jump from the UCLA study, which was published in January 2017 and estimated that 0.7% of American teens ages 13-17 identify as transgender.
That study was based on government data on adults collected by 27 US states in 2014 and 2015. The survey’s researchers used the adult data to estimate the percentage of transgender teens.
Rider’s new study only focuses on Minnesota teens, but researchers hope to expand it into a national study to get more accurate data.
‘A window into high school-aged youth’
Growing awareness and visibility surrounding transgender issues in recent years may make teenagers more comfortable with steering away from traditional gender labels, experts say.
Shumer, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, believes that the growing percentage of gender-nonconforming youth should serve as a lesson to schools and physicians to abandon limited views of gender.
“Of particular interest is how the researchers in this study were able to provide a window into how high school-aged youth understand and redefine gender,” he wrote.
“Continued work to build understanding of how youth understand and express gender is a critical step toward reducing health disparities in this important and valued population.”
Using a civil rights hero to sell cars in a Super Bowl commercial may seem absurd on its face, but it’s particularly ridiculous when said civil rights icon actually spoke out against car commercials.
During Sunday’s Super Bowl, Ram Trucks used parts of one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches to sell pickup trucks. Ram plucked a seemingly innocuous section of King’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon, told 50 years ago to the day of Super Bowl on Sunday, using it to reinforce the idea that its Ram trucks are “built to serve”:
If you want to be important, wonderful. If you want to be recognized, wonderful. If you want to be great, wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness. … By giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great. … You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know the theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.
As Nathan Robinson, editor-in-chief of Current Affairs, demonstrated in a YouTube video (embedded at the top of this article), it’s easy to show the disparity between King’s message and the ad itself. Robinson overlaid the video of the commercial with other parts of the exact same speech Ram quoted — exposing a sermon that is actually anticapitalist and even criticizes car advertisements:
Now the presence of this instinct explains why we are so often taken by advertisers. You know, those gentlemen of massive verbal persuasion. And they have a way of saying things to you that kind of gets you into buying. In order to be a man of distinction, you must drink this whiskey. In order to make your neighbors envious, you must drive this type of car. In order to be lovely to love you must wear this kind of lipstick or this kind of perfume. And you know, before you know it, you’re just buying that stuff. … I got to drive this car because it’s something about this car that makes my car a little better than my neighbor’s car. … I am sad to say that the nation in which we live is the supreme culprit. And I’m going to continue to say it to America.
Over the years, people have been taught and remembered King’s words of peaceful protest, unity, and service. But they by and large have forgotten more controversial aspects of his political protest — particularly his message about economic justice and the destructiveness of poverty. The Ram commercial exploits this, using apolitical parts of a speech that, in reality, mocks car advertisements — perhaps figuring that people wouldn’t remember what King really said because they by and large haven’t been taught his full message in their middle and high school history classes.
It’s hard to imagine how King would react to this blatant twisting of his words. But it certainly seems to go against what he preached.
Correction: Ram trucks are no longer affiliated with Dodge, as this post originally suggested.
She has been raped. She has been sexually assaulted. She has been mangled in hot steel. She has been betrayed and gaslighted by those she trusted.
And we’re not talking about her role as the blood-spattered bride in “Kill Bill.” We’re talking about a world that is just as cutthroat, amoral, vindictive and misogynistic as any Quentin Tarantino hellscape.
We’re talking about Hollywood, where even an avenging angel has a hard time getting respect, much less bloody satisfaction.
Playing foxy Mia Wallace in 1994’s “Pulp Fiction” and ferocious Beatrix Kiddo in “Kill Bill,” Volumes 1 (2003) and 2 (2004), Thurman was the lissome goddess in the creation myth of Harvey Weinstein and Quentin Tarantino. The Miramax troika was the ultimate in indie cool. A spellbound Tarantino often described his auteur-muse relationship with Thurman — who helped him conceive the idea of the bloody bride — as an Alfred Hitchcock-Ingrid Bergman legend. (With a foot fetish thrown in.) But beneath the glistening Oscar gold, there was a dark undercurrent that twisted the triangle.
“Pulp Fiction” made Weinstein rich and respected, and Thurman says he introduced her to President Barack Obama at a fund-raiser as the reason he had his house.
“The complicated feeling I have about Harvey is how bad I feel about all the women that were attacked after I was,” she told me one recent night, looking anguished in her elegant apartment in River House on Manhattan’s East Side, as she vaped tobacco, sipped white wine and fed empty pizza boxes into the fireplace.
“I am one of the reasons that a young girl would walk into his room alone, the way I did. Quentin used Harvey as the executive producer of ‘Kill Bill,’ a movie that symbolizes female empowerment. And all these lambs walked into slaughter because they were convinced nobody rises to such a position who would do something illegal to you, but they do.”
Thurman stresses that Creative Artists Agency, her former agency, was connected to Weinstein’s predatory behavior. It has since issued a public apology. “I stand as both a person who was subjected to it and a person who was then also part of the cloud cover, so that’s a super weird split to have,” she says.
She talks mordantly about “the power from ‘Pulp,’” and reminds me that it’s in the Library of Congress, part of the American narrative.
“I used the word ‘anger’ but I was more worried about crying, to tell you the truth,” she says now. “I was not a groundbreaker on a story I knew to be true. So what you really saw was a person buying time.”
By Thanksgiving, Thurman had begun to unsheathe her Hattori Hanzo, Instagramming a screen shot of her “roaring rampage of revenge” monologue and wishing everyone a happy holiday, “(Except you Harvey, and all your wicked conspirators — I’m glad it’s going slowly — you don’t deserve a bullet) — stay tuned.”
Stretching out her lanky frame on a brown velvet couch in front of the fire, Thurman tells her story, with occasional interruptions from her 5-year-old daughter with her ex, financier Arpad Busson. Luna is in her pj’s, munching on a raw cucumber. Her two older kids with Ethan Hawke, Maya, an actress, and Levon, a high school student, also drop by.
In interviews over the years, Thurman has offered a Zen outlook — even when talking about her painful breakup from Hawke. (She had a brief first marriage to Gary Oldman.) Her hall features a large golden Buddha from her parents in Woodstock; her father, Robert Thurman, is a Buddhist professor of Indo-Tibetan studies at Columbia who thinks Uma is a reincarnated goddess.
But beneath that reserve and golden aura, she has learned to be a street fighter.
She says when she was 16, living in a studio apartment in Manhattan and starting her movie career, she went to a club one winter night and met an actor, nearly 20 years older, who coerced her afterward when they went to his Greenwich Village brownstone for a nightcap.
“I was ultimately compliant,” she remembers. “I tried to say no, I cried, I did everything I could do. He told me the door was locked but I never ran over and tried the knob. When I got home, I remember I stood in front of the mirror and I looked at my hands and I was so mad at them for not being bloody or bruised. Something like that tunes the dial one way or another, right? You become more compliant or less compliant, and I think I became less compliant.”
Thurman got to know Weinstein and his first wife, Eve, in the afterglow of “Pulp Fiction.” “I knew him pretty well before he attacked me,” she said. “He used to spend hours talking to me about material and complimenting my mind and validating me. It possibly made me overlook warning signs. This was my champion. I was never any kind of studio darling. He had a chokehold on the type of films and directors that were right for me.”
Things soon went off-kilter in a meeting in his Paris hotel room. “It went right over my head,” she says. They were arguing about a script when the bathrobe came out.
“I didn’t feel threatened,” she recalls. “I thought he was being super idiosyncratic, like this was your kooky, eccentric uncle.”
He told her to follow him down a hall — there were always, she says, “vestibules within corridors within chambers” — so they could keep talking. “Then I followed him through a door and it was a steam room. And I was standing there in my full black leather outfit — boots, pants, jacket. And it was so hot and I said, ‘This is ridiculous, what are you doing?’ And he was getting very flustered and mad and he jumped up and ran out.”
he first “attack,” she says, came not long after in Weinstein’s suite at the Savoy Hotel in London. “It was such a bat to the head. He pushed me down. He tried to shove himself on me. He tried to expose himself. He did all kinds of unpleasant things. But he didn’t actually put his back into it and force me. You’re like an animal wriggling away, like a lizard. I was doing anything I could to get the train back on the track. My track. Not his track.”
She was staying in Fulham with her friend, Ilona Herman, Robert De Niro’s longtime makeup artist, who later worked with Thurman on “Kill Bill.”
“The next day to her house arrived a 26-inch-wide vulgar bunch of roses,” Thurman says. “They were yellow. And I opened the note like it was a soiled diaper and it just said, ‘You have great instincts.’” Then, she says, Weinstein’s assistants started calling again to talk about projects.
She thought she could confront him and clear it up, but she took Herman with her and asked Weinstein to meet her in the Savoy bar. The assistants had their own special choreography to lure actresses into the spider’s web and they pressured Thurman, putting Weinstein on the phone to again say it was a misunderstanding and “we have so many projects together.” Finally she agreed to go upstairs, while Herman waited on a settee outside the elevators.
Once the assistants vanished, Thurman says, she warned Weinstein, “If you do what you did to me to other people you will lose your career, your reputation and your family, I promise you.” Her memory of the incident abruptly stops there.
Through a representative, Weinstein, who is in therapy in Arizona, agreed that “she very well could have said this.”
Downstairs, Herman was getting nervous. “It seemed to take forever,” the friend told me. Finally, the elevator doors opened and Thurman walked out. “She was very disheveled and so upset and had this blank look,” Herman recalled. “Her eyes were crazy and she was totally out of control. I shoveled her into the taxi and we went home to my house. She was really shaking.” Herman said that when the actress was able to talk again, she revealed that Weinstein had threatened to derail her career.
Through a spokesperson, Weinstein denied ever threatening her prospects and said that he thought she was “a brilliant actress.” He acknowledged her account of the episodes but said that up until the Paris steam room, they had had “a flirtatious and fun working relationship.”
“Mr. Weinstein acknowledges making a pass at Ms. Thurman in England after misreading her signals in Paris,” the statement said. “He immediately apologized.”
Thurman says that, even though she was in the middle of a run of Miramax projects, she privately regarded Weinstein as an enemy after that. One top Hollywood executive who knew them both said the work relationship continued but that basically, “She didn’t give him the time of day.”
Thurman says that she could tolerate the mogul in supervised environments and that she assumed she had “aged out of the window of his assault range.”
She attended the party he had in SoHo in September for Tarantino’s engagement to Daniella Pick, an Israeli singer. In response to queries about Thurman’s revelations, Weinstein sent along six pictures of chummy photos of the two of them at premieres and parties over the years.
And that brings us to “the Quentin of it all,” as Thurman calls it. The animosity between Weinstein and Thurman infected her creative partnership with Tarantino.
Married to Hawke and with a baby daughter and a son on the way, Thurman went to the Cannes Film Festival in 2001. She says Tarantino noticed after a dinner that she was skittish around Weinstein, which was a problem, since they were all about to make “Kill Bill.” She says she reminded Tarantino that she had already told him about the Savoy incident, but “he probably dismissed it like ‘Oh, poor Harvey, trying to get girls he can’t have,’ whatever he told himself, who knows?” But she reminded him again and “the penny dropped for him. He confronted Harvey.”
Later, by the pool under the Cypress trees at the luxurious Hotel du Cap, Thurman recalls, Weinstein said he was hurt and surprised by her accusations. She then firmly reiterated what happened in London. “At some point, his eyes changed and he went from aggressive to ashamed,” she says, and he offered her an apology with many of the sentiments he would trot out about 16 years later when the walls caved in.
“I just walked away stunned, like ‘O.K., well there’s my half-assed apology,’” Thurman says.
Weinstein confirmed Friday that he apologized, an unusual admission from him, which spurred Thurman to wryly note, “His therapy must be working.”
Since the revelations about Weinstein became public last fall, Thurman has been reliving her encounters with him — and a gruesome episode on location for “Kill Bill” in Mexico made her feel as blindsided as the bride and as determined to get her due, no matter how long it took.
With four days left, after nine months of shooting the sadistic saga, Thurman was asked to do something that made her draw the line.
In the famous scene where she’s driving the blue convertible to kill Bill — the same one she put on Instagram on Thanksgiving — she was asked to do the driving herself.
But she had been led to believe by a teamster, she says, that the car, which had been reconfigured from a stick shift to an automatic, might not be working that well.
She says she insisted that she didn’t feel comfortable operating the car and would prefer a stunt person to do it. Producers say they do not recall her objecting.
“Quentin came in my trailer and didn’t like to hear no, like any director,” she says. “He was furious because I’d cost them a lot of time. But I was scared. He said: ‘I promise you the car is fine. It’s a straight piece of road.’” He persuaded her to do it, and instructed: “ ‘Hit 40 miles per hour or your hair won’t blow the right way and I’ll make you do it again.’ But that was a deathbox that I was in. The seat wasn’t screwed down properly. It was a sand road and it was not a straight road.” (Tarantino did not respond to requests for comment.)
Thurman then shows me the footage that she says has taken her 15 years to get. “Solving my own Nancy Drew mystery,” she says.
It’s from the point of view of a camera mounted to the back of the Karmann Ghia. It’s frightening to watch Thurman wrestle with the car, as it drifts off the road and smashes into a palm tree, her contorted torso heaving helplessly until crew members appear in the frame to pull her out of the wreckage. Tarantino leans in and Thurman flashes a relieved smile when she realizes that she can briefly stand.
“The steering wheel was at my belly and my legs were jammed under me,” she says. “I felt this searing pain and thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m never going to walk again,’” she says. “When I came back from the hospital in a neck brace with my knees damaged and a large massive egg on my head and a concussion, I wanted to see the car and I was very upset. Quentin and I had an enormous fight, and I accused him of trying to kill me. And he was very angry at that, I guess understandably, because he didn’t feel he had tried to kill me.”
Even though their marriage was spiraling apart, Hawke immediately left the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky to fly to his wife’s side.
“I approached Quentin in very serious terms and told him that he had let Uma down as a director and as a friend,” he told me. He said he told Tarantino, “Hey, man, she is a great actress, not a stunt driver, and you know that.” Hawke added that the director “was very upset with himself and asked for my forgiveness.”
Two weeks after the crash, after trying to see the car and footage of the incident, she had her lawyer send a letter to Miramax, summarizing the event and reserving the right to sue.
Miramax offered to show her the footage if she signed a document “releasing them of any consequences of my future pain and suffering,” she says. She didn’t.
Thurman says her mind meld with Tarantino was rattled. “We were in a terrible fight for years,” she explains. “We had to then go through promoting the movies. It was all very thin ice. We had a fateful fight at Soho House in New York in 2004 and we were shouting at each other because he wouldn’t let me see the footage and he told me that was what they had all decided.”
Now, so many years after the accident, inspired by the reckoning on violence against women, reliving her own “dehumanization to the point of death” in Mexico, and furious that there have not been more legal repercussions against Weinstein, Thurman says she handed over the result of her own excavations to the police and ramped up the pressure to cajole the crash footage out of Tarantino.
“Quentin finally atoned by giving it to me after 15 years, right?” she says. “Not that it matters now, with my permanently damaged neck and my screwed-up knees.”
(Tarantino aficionados spy an echo of Thurman’s crash in his 2007 movie, “Death Proof,” produced by Weinstein and starring Thurman’s stunt double, Zoë Bell. Young women, including a blond Rose McGowan, die in myriad ways, including by slamming into a windshield.)
As she sits by the fire on a second night when we talk until 3 a.m., tears begin to fall down her cheeks. She brushes them away.
“When they turned on me after the accident,” she says, “I went from being a creative contributor and performer to being like a broken tool.”
Thurman says that in “Kill Bill,” Tarantino had done the honors with some of the sadistic flourishes himself, spitting in her face in the scene where Michael Madsen is seen on screen doing it and choking her with a chain in the scene where a teenager named Gogo is on screen doing it.
“Harvey assaulted me but that didn’t kill me,” she says. “What really got me about the crash was that it was a cheap shot. I had been through so many rings of fire by that point. I had really always felt a connection to the greater good in my work with Quentin and most of what I allowed to happen to me and what I participated in was kind of like a horrible mud wrestle with a very angry brother. But at least I had some say, you know?” She says she didn’t feel disempowered by any of it. Until the crash.
“Personally, it has taken me 47 years to stop calling people who are mean to you ‘in love’ with you. It took a long time because I think that as little girls we are conditioned to believe that cruelty and love somehow have a connection and that is like the sort of era that we need to evolve out of.”
The modern era of the so-called “three-parent baby” has officially kicked off, and it will begin in the UK.
According to the BBC, the country’s Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has granted permission for doctors at the Newcastle Fertility Center to artificially implant two women with an embryo containing the DNA of three people. The procedure is intended to prevent the women from passing a rare, debilitating genetic condition known as MERRF (myoclonic epilepsy with ragged red fibers) syndrome down to their children. People born with MERRF suffer a wide variety of chronic symptoms, including seizures, impaired muscles, and eventually dementia.
There are two current techniques that can be used to create a three-parent baby, but the net result is the same: A child born with the nuclear DNA of their intended parents, and the swapped-in mitochondrial DNA of a donor woman.
Mitochondria are an essential part of nearly every kind of cell found in the body, acting as the cell’s source of energy. But only a tiny slice of our DNA determines how our mitochondria functions—a whooping 37 genes out of more than 20,000. And none of these genes influence things like our appearance, risk of some cancers, or propensity for Cheetos. But because we obtain the genes for making mitochondria exclusively from our mother, women whose mitochondria have damaging mutations are at high risk at passing on those same flaws to their children, including those responsible for MERRF syndrome.
Three-parent babies actually aren’t new. Similar procedures were performed throughout the 90s in various countries, including the U.S. But concerns emerged that the techniques used then were too risky, and may have resulted in children who were either born with the same mutations their mothers had or who developed other complications. Within a few years, the FDA banned these procedures from being performed in the states, while other countries informally followed suit.
The new generation of three-parent techniques are thought to be much safer. But there are still worries that we might be moving too fast. Last year, the FDA warned John Zhang, a New York fertility doctor, to steer clear of the U.S. if he wanted to perform his version of the technique, since there is still a formal ban on implanting women with genetically modified human embryos.
Zhang is credited as the first doctor to successfully perform the modern-day procedure, but ethicists have balked at the shady workarounds he used to pull it off. According to the FDA, Zhang’s initial application to have the procedure put through clinical trials was denied, and he promised to avoid performing it stateside until he could gain approval. But he’s also continued to advertise it as a way to not only prevent mitochondrial birth defects, but age-related infertility. Meanwhile, other teams from China and the Ukraine have also reported using 3-person techniques in the wake of Zhang’s success.
Unlike the U.S., the UK has long been preparing for the arrival of three-parent babies. In 2015, its Parliament passed regulations that would eventually allow the use of these techniques, pending a lengthy review process by the HFEA. Last year, the agency finally granted its first license to perform the procedure to the Newcastle Fertility Center. For the time being, each potential case will be reviewed by the HFEA before its approval.
Scientists have unveiled an extraordinary new analysis of thousands of stone tools found at a site called Attirampakkam in India, northwest of Chennai in Tamil Nadu. Thanks to new dating techniques, a team led by archaeologist Shanti Pappu determined that most of the tools are between 385,000 and 172,000 years old. What makes these dates noteworthy is that they upend the idea that tool-making was transformed in India after an influx of modern Homo sapiens came from Africa starting about 130,000 years ago.
According to these findings, hominins in India were making tools that looked an awful lot like what people were making in Africa almost 250,000 years before they encountered modern humans. This is yet another piece of evidence that the “out of Africa” process was a lot messier and more complex than previously thought.
Pappu worked out of the Sharma Centre for Heritage Education in Chennai with a team of geoscientists and physicists to date the tools. They used a technique called “post-infrared infrared-stimulated luminescence,” which measures how long ago minerals were exposed to light or heat. In essence, it allows scientists to determine how long ago a tool was buried and hidden from the Sun’s heat, and it uses that information as a proxy for the tool’s age.
Writing in Nature, the group explains that the Attirampakkam site is ideal for this kind of dating, because it was regularly flooded by a nearby stream, meaning that discarded tools were quickly covered up by sediments in the water. Those regular floods left behind a relatively tidy stack of debris layers, each of which could be dated.
To their surprise, Pappu and her colleagues found that this region—once a tree-shaded shoreline, ideal for long-term camping—had been occupied by early humans for hundreds of thousands of years. Partly that’s because the river carried great heaps of quartzite rocks and pebbles to the area. Quartz was the preferred stone for tools, and it’s obvious that this place was a tool workshop. Alongside axes, knives, projectile points, and scrapers, the team found half-finished tools and discarded flakes created by chipping away at a rock to make a blade.
The Middle Paleolithic toolbox
But here’s where the story gets weird. The hominins who made tools at Attirampakkam made a wide variety of items, some of which closely resembled the Middle Paleolithic style that emerged in Africa around 300,000 years ago. The Middle Paleolithic marks a cultural shift when humans began to make smaller, more complicated tools, often requiring toolmakers to shape their stones in a multi-stage process. Before the Middle Paleolithic, hominins created biface tools, or simple, heavy hand axes shaped like teardrops.
A traditional “out of Africa” hypothesis holds that early humans in India were essentially stuck in the biface age, making their elementary axes until modern Homo sapiens swarmed the subcontinent about 130,000 years ago and brought the wonders of Middle Paleolithic tools to everyone. Except Pappu and her team found a mix of bifaces and Middle Paleolithic tools at Attirampakkam. Somehow, African and Indian hominins were developing the same toolmaking skills at roughly the same time.
This changes our understanding of human development and ancient migration patterns. There is no doubt that a massive number of modern humans poured out of Africa about 100,000 years ago. But they weren’t necessarily as important to global cultural development as we might think.
It’s possible that hominins from Africa started traveling to India almost 400,000 years ago, bringing new ideas about tool technologies along with them. Pappu and her colleagues point out in their paper that the Attirampakkam site was active during at least two periods when the climate would have allowed easy crossing from Africa to Eurasia, through a transcontinental jungle rich with food and other resources. Of course, it’s also possible that the Middle Paleolithic tools at Attirampakkam are an example of convergent evolution, where two separate cultures hit upon the same innovations at roughly the same time.
We don’t have enough evidence yet to say which hypothesis is more likely, but Pappu’s research is yet another hint that modern Homo sapiens culture was evolving outside Africa as well as within it. Also, we have to use the designation “Homo sapiens” carefully here. Pappu and her team note in their paper that only one archaic human fossil, the Narmada cranium, has ever been discovered in India. That leaves plenty of gaps in the record.
Attirampakkam is strewn with the results of human productivity, but there are no fossils to tell us who these humans were. An early ancestor, like Homo erectus or the Narmada human? Possibly Neanderthals or Denisovans, who were both roaming Eurasia at the time? Some hybrid we’ve yet to discover?
Regardless of who these early humans were, it’s certain that they were already engaged in modern human toolmaking before Homo sapiens arrived from Africa. What’s fascinating about the Attirampakkam site is that the evidence suggests that the people there may have started migrating en masse at the same time Africans did. In the most recent layers of the site, tools become sparse. Humans were coming to this place less and less often. The people of Attirampakkam may have fled climate fluctuations caused by the Toba eruption 70,000 years ago, or they may have been responding to other changes.
Pappu and her colleagues write that, ultimately, the remains at Attirampakkam aren’t just testimony to human innovation. They are also a sign of “placemaking,” a cognitive shift that made humans want to return to the same location, generation after generation. We’re seeing the emergence of collective memory and historical knowledge right alongside the development of sophisticated stone tools.
California is seeking to treat homeschool families as presumptive child abusers. Lawmakers in that state have indicated plans to categorically require homeschool parents to prove — through home visits, interviews, and other government oversight — that indeed the parent is not abusive if they choose to exercise a legally protected and valid option for school choice. This measure would shift the burden to the parent to prove to the government’s satisfaction his or her parental fitness.
This is absurdly unconstitutional.
But in light of the remarkably horrifying case of Riverside County couple David and Louise Turpin, whose 13 children were reportedly chained, malnourished, and clearly abused, the media and lawmakers have chosen to focus on one coincidental detail — the Turpins were also registered as homeschoolers.
Using the Turpins’ case as one extreme example to bolster their platform, legislators are now looking to increase government regulations of homeschooling in California, which may lay the groundwork for increased regulation nationwide. Already, state legislators have suggested they will introduce legislation to cure the supposed “problem” of laxity in private school choice options, which includes homeschooling.
Suggested measures have included options for involuntary quarterly home visits and interviews from child protective services and other government agencies. This kind of government regulation and oversight would reduce the valid legal option of homeschooling from a fundamental parental right, to direct the education and school choice for children, to compelled consent to government intrusion upon the sanctity and privacy of the home and school choice.
These kinds of alarming “solutions” to an unfounded problem rises to the level of a government search of the family’s home and interviews of children, under the pretext that homeschool choice infers that parents are more likely to be child abusers. It’s a similar illogical path as inferring that because a person chooses to be an independent contractor as a legitimate employment option, they are more likely to evade tax filings, or because a person chooses to exercise any other valid legal option, they are doing so for some other unrelated nefarious purpose, and on that basis alone the government has grounds to treat them as suspect.
In fact, the data suggest the complete opposite in terms of the benefits to children who are enrolled in alternative school choice options, specifically homeschooling. In a recent piece in Business Insider titled “Homeschooling could be the smartest way to teach kids in the 21st century — here are 5 reasons why,” Chris Weller discusses how homeschooling is not only a mainstream choice, but also that “homeschooled kids have the same access to online learning, friendships, and extracurricular activities as the typical public school student — but without many of the drawbacks, like standardized lesson plans and bullying.” Many parents choose homeschooling to better tailor the educational and environmental needs of children.
The law also recognizes the fundamental right of the parent to make choices about their child’s education and upbringing, and homeschooling is a valid legal option in all 50 states. For lawmakers to correlate instances like the Turpins, where child abusers are also homeschoolers, is to manufacture a problem looking for a solution. The data is insufficient to make that correlation a legitimate argument that homeschooling is the causal factor precipitating abuse.
Further, these types of proposed “solutions” pose a myriad of constitutional problems. First, it treats homeschool families as suspect child abusers without any legitimate legal basis. It is similar to requiring all drivers to undergo a breath or blood test to prove they are not under the influence simply because they chose to exercise a valid legal option of driving.
The Constitution requires the government to have probable cause before any test, and the burden is always on the government to prove their case, not for an individual to waive the presumption of innocence simply because they chose to drive. Parents who choose to “drive” in the homeschool lane constitutionally must have all of the same rights and protections as parents who choose to “drive” in the traditional public school lane.
Second, this would unconstitutionally force warrantless searches within the privacy of a family dwelling and subjects compelled testimony from children that is expressly for the purposes of potential future litigation. Imagine if the government could label any category of parent as alleged child abusers and thus treat the parents as suspect. What if your choice as a parent to raise your children in California suddenly meant the government could invade your home and look for evidence you might be a child abuser simply because the Turpins also resided in California?
In Iowa, a measure was introduced last year to force all families operating under the state’s Independent Private Instruction Choice or the Private Instruction Choice to undergo an annual assessment. The bill would mandate that every homeschool family’s home is involuntarily invaded once per quarter, with government officials interviewing or observing every child in the household registered as a homeschooler and perform a “check on the health and safety” of the children.
There was no clear definition of what “health and safety” meant in the context of the checks, nor did the measure advance any constitutional basis for such a search.
Homeschool Legal Defense Association President Mike Smith said in a message last week to members and friends of the organization, “These efforts incorrectly assume that homeschooling is the problem here. Hasty legislation based on horrific and criminal behavior — behavior that has nothing to do with homeschooling — would be unfair to the thousands of law-abiding families in California who work hard to provide a safe and loving environment for their children.”
Child abuse does happen, and it is a terrible thing. But we have to be very careful not to overreact and presume all parents are child abusers. They aren’t. We must preserve the presumption of innocence and constitutional protections for every family and parent in the context of school choice and in all areas of parental rights.
Jenna Ellis (@jennaellisorg) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. She is an attorney and professor of constitutional law at Colorado Christian University, fellow at the Centennial Institute, radio show host in Denver, Colo., and the author of the Legal Basis for a Moral Constitution.
But by attending the SOTU as Rep. Bridenstine’s guest, Nye has tacitly endorsed those very policies, and put his own personal brand over the interests of the scientific community at large. Rep. Bridenstine is a controversial nominee who refuses to state that climate change is driven by human activity, and even introduced legislation to remove Earth sciences from NASA’s scientific mission. Further, he’s worked to undermine civil rights, including pushing for crackdowns on immigrants, a ban on gay marriage, and abolishing the Department of Education.
As scientists, we cannot stand by while Nye lends our community’s credibility to a man who would undermine the United States’ most prominent science agency. And we cannot stand by while Nye uses his public persona as a science entertainer to support an administration that is expressly xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic, racist, ableist, and anti-science.
Scientists are people, and in today’s society, it is impossible to separate science at major agencies like NASA from other pressing issues like racism, bigotry, and misogyny. Addressing these issues should be a priority, not only to strengthen our own scientific community, but to better serve the public that often funds our work. Rather than wield his public persona to bring attention to the need for science-informed policy, Bill Nye has chosen to excuse Rep. Bridenstine’s anti-science record and his stance on civil rights, and to implicitly support a stance that would diminish the agency’s work studying our own planet and its changing climate. Exploring other worlds and studying other planets, while dismissing the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change and its damage to our own planet isn’t just dangerous, it’s foolish and self-defeating.
Further, from his position of privilege and public popularity, Bill Nye is acting on the scientific community’s behalf, but without our approval. No amount of funding for space exploration can undo the damage the Trump administration is causing to public health and welfare by censoring science. No number of shiny new satellites can undo the racist policies that make our Dreamer colleagues live in fear and prevent immigrants from pursuing scientific careers in the United States. And no new mission to the Moon can make our LGBTQ colleagues feel welcome at an agency run by someone who votes against their civil rights.
As women and scientists, we refuse to separate science from everyday life. We refuse to keep our heads down and our mouths shut. As someone with a show alleging to save the world, Bill Nye has a responsibility to acknowledge the importance of NASA’s vast mission, not just one aspect of it. He should use his celebrity to elevate the importance of science in NASA’s mission—not waste the opportunity to lobby for space exploration at a cost to everything else.
The true shame is that Bill Nye remains the popular face of science because he keeps himself in the public eye. To be sure, increasing the visibility of scientists in the popular media is important to strengthening public support for science, but Nye’s TV persona has perpetuated the harmful stereotype that scientists are nerdy, combative white men in lab coats—a stereotype that does not comport with our lived experience as women in STEM. And he continues to wield his power recklessly, even after his recent endeavors in debate and politics have backfired spectacularly.
In 2014, he attempted to debate creationist Ken Ham—against the judgment of evolution experts—which only served to allow Ham to raise the funds needed to build an evangelical theme park that spreads misinformation about human evolution. Similarly, Nye repeatedly agreed to televised debates with non-scientist climate deniers, contributing to the false perception that researchers still disagree about basic climate science. And when Bill Nye went on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to “debate” climate change in 2017, his appearance was used to spread misinformation to Fox viewers and fundraise for anti-climate initiatives.
Bill Nye does not speak for us or for the members of the scientific community who have to protect not only the integrity of their research, but also their basic right to do science. We stand withothers who have asked Bill Nye to not attend the State of the Union. Nye’s complicity does not align him with the researchers who have a bold and progressive vision for the future of science and its role in society.
At a time when our ability to do science and our ability to live freely are both under threat, our public champions and our institutions must do better.
SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — Josh and Lolly Weed, viewed as proof, and used as an example, that a gay man and a straight woman can make a successful Mormon marriage, have announced their divorce. In the same blog post where they announce their divorce, they offered an apology to the LGBTQ community.
“Today, we need to let you know that Lolly and I are divorcing,” the blog said this week, after recounting the couple’s accidental rise to the media spotlight when Josh Weed came out as a gay LDS man who was faithful to his church and married to a woman. They were in high demand to explain how they made the seemingly contradictory lifestyles work together.
The couple wrote, together and then individually in the same blog post on Thursday, that they came to understand over time that their deep platonic love was not a substitute for romantic love and that such a relationship is vital to everyone’s happiness.
Lolly Weed wrote:
And that is what human beings need to be healthy. All of us. Romantic attachment. It’s one of the main purposes of life!
They explain at length how they came to the realization. Josh Weed said three factors led him to believe this was the case.
Love for the LGBTQ population
Love for himself as a gay person
The death of his mother
The couple rise to notoriety came about because of a blog post — that can no longer be found on JoshWeed.com — that, according to Josh, led them to be “featured on shows and newspapers around the globe.” That included a story on Nightline, embedded below.
Josh works in his private practice as a licensed marriage and family therapist. Included with the announcement and explanation about the couple’s divorce was an apology to the LGBTQ community. Among the specific things the Weeds apologies for are:
We’re sorry, so incredibly sorry, for the ways our post has been used to bully others.
And we’re sorry if our story made it easier for people in your life to reject you and your difficult path as being wrong.
We’re sorry to any gay Mormon who received criticism, backlash, or hatred as a result of our story.
We’re sorry to anybody who felt a measure of false peace because of our story.
We’re sorry to any LGBTQIA person who was given false hope by our story
Josh Weed also wrote that his stance on homosexuality, that once aligned with that of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had changed.
“I have spent my entire life conforming to every standard of the LDS faith because I believed it was what God wanted me to do,” he explained.
“I believed this because every mentor, every exemplar, every religious teacher, every therapist, every leader I ever grew up listening to and trusting told me that that was the only way I could return to live with God. There was an emphasis on ‘perfect obedience’ and yet, over the course of my lifetime, the list of things said by these trusted leaders about my sexual orientation was profoundly inconsistent and confusing.”
Josh Weed listed a number of those “inconsistent and confusing” things, which included:
My sexual orientation wasn’t real
My sexual orientation was evil
My sexual orientation was an abomination
My sexual orientation was tantamount to bestiality and just shy of murder
My sexual orientation could change in this life if I had enough faith
My sexual orientation was a “trial” to bear
My sexual orientation maybe couldn’t change in this life after all
My sexual orientation could be managed with faith
My sexual orientation could be endured
Lolly Weed also wrote that many of her friends and community expressed to her, upon learning of the divorce, empathized with her and say she deserved the romantic connection, but few felt that empathy for her husband.
The thing that’s so interesting to me is how few people think of Josh in this way. How few people in his life have ever thought these things about him—things that are so obvious, so clear, so emphatic when talking to another straight person. I mean, isn’t the same true for LGBT people? Shouldn’t we feel the exact same intuitive injustice at the thought of them deserving to be “loved like that”?
When the tables are turned and we are talking about LGBTQ individuals, somehow people don’t see the parallels. Why am I, as a straight person, entitled to reciprocal, requited romantic love while an LGBTQ individual is not?
The blog post says the couple and their children will continue to be close and will continue to love each other.
“We can continue to be the family we have always been, and we can add to that family,” they wrote.
“In posting, we hoped to let those who followed our story five years ago know the reality of our situation. We also wanted to apologize to the LGBTQIA community and to anybody who was hurt by our story over the last five years.
Angry users call out vice president for ‘shameful’ and ‘tone-deaf’ tweet commemorating Jewish Holocaust victims. The Hebrew translation of the imagery and wording he chose, however, is quite common in Israel
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has been excoriated on Twitter by Jews offended by what they view as his use of “Christ imagery” when memorializing Hitler’s victims on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Pence tweeted a video of him and his wife Karen laying a wreath and taking a tour of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem during their visit to Israel last week. In the tweet, he paid tribute to what he called the “6 million Jewish martyrs of the Holocaust who 3 years after walking beneath the shadow of death, rose up from the ashes to resurrect themselves to reclaim a Jewish future.”
Angry replies to his tweet charged that Pence, an evangelical Christian, imposed – consciously or unconsciously – a Christian religious narrative on the tragedy that was disrespectful to the Jews who perished. Critics described it as “shameful” and “tone-deaf.”
One wrote: “Are you referring to my Jewish relatives who died or survived in the Holocaust or did we become embroiled into some sort of Jesus analogy?” Another called Pence’s use of the term resurrection “a Christian-tinged euphemism as the word is rarely used out of that specific context” and accused him of “glossing over the fact that they were murdered by saying they were resurrected, just like the Jesus he claims to believe in.“
Additional criticism followed:
skip – A tweet from Matthew Yglesias
The word “resurrection,” which has strong Christian connotations in English, is also a legitimate translation of the Hebrew word tekuma, which also can be translated as “rebirth,” “recovery” or “revival.” It is frequently used to describe the establishment of the State of Israel following the Holocaust in the phrase “Shoah v’tekuma.” Some on Twitter objected to the use of the word “martyr” as implying that the victims of the Holocaust sacrificed themselves willingly rather than being murdered. However, the word “martyr” is translated into Hebrew as kedoshim, which is the term most frequently used to memorialize Holocaust victims in Israel. The official name of Israel’s Holocaust memorial day is, in fact, Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day.
This year’s White House message included a clear reference to the Jewish victims, saying that “we take this opportunity to recall the Nazis’ systematic persecution and brutal murder of six million Jewish people. In their death camps and under their inhuman rule, the Nazis also enslaved and killed millions of Slavs, Roma, gays, people with disabilities, priests and religious leaders, and others who courageously opposed their brutal regime.”
President Donald Trump himself also made a point of mentioning Jews in his tweet on the subject:
skip – A tweet from U.S. President Donald Trump
Pence’s assertion that Jews “rose from the ashes” is also imagery that is not unfamiliar to Jewish or Israeli ears.
President Reuven Rivlin, in his eulogy for late Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, said that “Shamir was a symbol of Israel’s rising from the ashes of the Holocaust to strength and staying power.”
Beyond semantics, the larger issue is the implication in Pence’s tweet of an actual Jesus Christ-style resurrection of the Holocaust victims, through his statement that Jews “rose up from the ashes to resurrect themselves to reclaim a Jewish future” implies an actual return from the dead. Pence’s reference to “3 years walking beneath the shadow of death” was interpreted by many as making a deliberate parallel to the 3 days that passed between the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust did not ‘resurrect themselves.’ They are all dead and most of them not even buried. Mr. Pence should have left out the term ‘resurrect,’ which offended many Jews,” said Rabbi Ron Kronish, an expert on interreligious relations and a library fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.
Kronish added that Pence’s “reference to a Jewish future was very vague and unclear. If he meant that the Holocaust led to the foundation of the Jewish State of Israel, this is blasphemy since it somehow justifies the Holocaust.”
The fact that “many Israeli politicians” often commit this sin themselves, he said, doesn’t make it right. “It would have been better for him to have said nothing about the Holocaust on this occasion if he or his advisers can’t figure out a sensitive and serious way to say it,” concluded Kronish.
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